There’s that number again: 9. And while the authorities have intervened, this case demonstrates how the adherence to Islamic law and the example of Muhammad regarding the “acceptable” age for marriage undermine civil laws aimed at protecting female citizens even in an “Islamic republic.”
Sharia Alert from the Khaleej Times: “Pakistani police rescue bride aged 9 wed to pay debt”
KARACHI – Police in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province have rescued a nine-year-old girl who was married off by her father to clear a debt for 400 kg (880 lb) of rice.
Both the father, Jan Mohammad, and her husband of four days, Abdul Sattar, a man of around 60, have been arrested and will appear in court on Saturday, a senior officer said.
“The marriage has taken place but the girl is underage,” police officer Masroor Ahmed Jatoi in Jacobabad district, 480 Km (300 miles) north of Karachi, told Reuters on Friday.
“She was given as compensation by her father, so we are treating it as a criminal case,” said Jatoi.
The girl, Wahida, has been sent for medical examination, and would be transferred to a care centre until a court decides where she will be best looked after.
Her father had stood as guarantor for a friend who bought the rice on credit, but when the debt put at 50,000 rupees ($833) was not paid, the trader demanded that Mohammad give his daughter in marriage to his elder brother as compensation, Jatoi said.
Human rights activist and lawyer Rashid Rehman said the law bars marriages of girls under 14 and boys under 16.
“The law has defined the ages clearly. There is also a law that prevents children and women from being given in any form of compensation to settle a dispute or blood feud,” Rehman said, adding that the court could declare the marriage void.
The government says it promotes the rights of women, but it is still common in rural areas, where feudal and tribal ways hold sway, for girls to be given as compensation to settle disputes.
Earlier this week, Pakistan’s Supreme Court stopped five minor girls from being handed over as compensation in a double murder case and ordered the police to conduct an inquiry.